After decades of watching and experiencing the pain created by the ongoing presence of polygamy in the teachings of the LDS Church, and as an active member of that church, I offer this personal manifesto:
There is a large set of untold stories — call this the Mormon women’s section — stories that deserve be put on the same table and examined under the same light as the many thousands of stories from women that continue to come as the result of what we may call the Harvey Weinstein phenomenon.
It is common knowledge that an LDS man, after the death of his wife or a divorce, may have another woman “sealed” to him in the temple with the promise that he will claim each of his wives in heaven. These teachings and policies regarding the likelihood — and often the guarantee — of eternal polygamy put men and women on unequal ground, resulting in nothing less than gender-based abuse, an assault on the spiritual, emotional and sexual lives of half the membership of the church.
This is not a good day to defend the abuse of women.
Because of a survey I conducted that brought more than 8,000 responses from believing and formerly believing Mormon women and men, I can speak with assurance about the pain, confusion and distress that exist around this subject today. The words of the women who told me their stories are an echo of words we have been reading or hearing on the national scene.
“I feel — violated … intimidated … held hostage … used … threatened … crazy … terrified … powerless … shamed … insulted … devalued … crushed … voiceless … inadequate … insecure in my marriage … seen as property, as eternal chattel … in danger of being destroyed as was Emma Smith … without dignity … hopeless ... of lesser value than a man in God’s eyes … soul sick.”
In the words of one woman, “Bludgeon is the right term. I have felt bludgeoned by polygamy!”
Soul sick. Bludgeoned. Assaulted. Abused. And the abuser? A personage given a place of high honor in our church — a personage that I call “The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy.” His mission purportedly is to connect the human family in God’s Kingdom. My observation is that he divides and destroys. His main achievement is to break the hearts of women.
In the Book of Mormon we read, regarding the Nephite men taking more than one wife: “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives…and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you.” (Jacob 2:35)
This is not a good day to defend breaking the hearts of women.
In my opinion, the Mormon people are among the best people to be found on the planet. Our pioneer heritage invites us to move on, to solve problems, to cultivate beauty in the desert, to seek and hold fast to all that is “virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy.”
It is time for the pain and the stain of polygamy finally to come to an end.
Catchy phrases have cropped up in today’s culture:
Across the country, “MeToo.”
In Hollywood, “Time’s Up.”
I do not have a short and snappy phrase for this effort, but I do have a powerful one, words I will speak until the day I die:
We are better than this—and we must do better than this.
Carol Lynn Pearson was born in Utah and now lives in Northern California. She is an active member of the LDS Church and an author of more than 40 books and plays. Her most recent book is The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men.